Former First Lady Mama Ngina Kenyatta has been receiving a monthly pay in excess of half a million shillings from the government amid legal debate on whether she is entitled to the payments.
Official documents from the Presidency indicate that Mrs Kenyatta receives Sh568, 218 monthly at taxpayers’ expense for being the spouse of Kenya’s first president, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, who died in 1978.
Treasury officials say the payment is tied to the law that provides for a spouse of a sitting or retired president to be paid 40 percent of the current salary paid to the sitting head of state should their husband die.
But some lawyers reckon that the payment is not consistent with the Presidential Retirement Benefits Act, which took effect in January 2003.
“Ideally, this law cannot be applied retrospectively. Mrs Kenyatta, while deserving State pension or gratuity, is not entitled to a government pay when the Act is applied strictly,” said a lawyer who requested anonymity because he did not want to be seen discussing the first family in public.
Mrs Kenyatta started receiving the payment before her son, Uhuru Kenyatta, became President in 2013, officials at the Presidency say.
At 40 percent of the sitting president’s salary, Mrs Kenyatta is in line for a Sh577, 500 monthly pay.
“Spouse benefits upon the death of a serving President or of a retired President who is in receipt of or who is entitled to a pension under this Act, his surviving spouse shall be entitled to benefits amounting to fifty percent of such pension,” says the Presidential Retirement Benefits Act.
The monthly pension of retired presidents-- Mwai Kibaki and Daniel arap Moi—is set at 80 percent of the current salary paid to the sitting President besides other perks like fuel, house and entertainment allowances.
This places their monthly pension at Sh1.15 million compared to the Sh1.44 million that Mr Kenyatta earns every month.
The monthly payment of Mrs Kenyatta, 86, has placed the former First Lady in a small and exclusive club that includes former top public officials who set back taxpayers more than half a million shillings every month to keep them comfortable in retirement.
This includes former Vice-President Moody Awori and retired Parliament Speakers — Kenneth Marende, Francis ole Kaparo and Ekwee Ethuro — who are paid hundreds of thousands monthly besides juicy perks like fuel and medical allowance and tens of aides paid by the State.
The Treasury has set aside Sh1.5 billion in the current financial year ending June to cater for the retirement benefits of the privileged former State officials in a package that will also include the pay and perks of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and former Vice-Presidents Kalonzo Musyoka and Musalia Mudavadi.
This underlines the taxpayers burden of keeping former State officials comfortable in retirement.
The lavish package has also come under heavy criticism on grounds that some of the retired ‘State officials left office as rich men with property worth billions of shillings and vast business interests.
As the matriarch in charge of the Kenyatta family’s vast business empire, Mama Ngina presides over an enterprise that is associated with well-known commercial brands and blue chip companies.
Nigeria-based financial magazine, Ventures, in 2013 estimated the Kenyatta family fortune, including thousands of acres of land and commercial buildings to be worth $1 billion (Sh100 billion).
But the full extent of the business dynasty, however, is still a closely guarded secret known only to the family, top lawyers and the elite investors with whom they do business.
The Kenyatta family owned a significant stake in Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA), which recently merged with the listed NIC Bank, to form NCBA Group #ticker:NIC—which is listed at the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE).
The Kenyattas control about 13.2 percent of the new entity, valuing their stake at Sh6.43 billion based on the bank’s market valuation of Sh48.68 billion at close of trading yesterday.
Others investments are Brookside Dairy—where the President’s younger brother, Muhoho Kenyatta, sits as executive chairman, and the upmarket and chic hotel chain, Heritage Hotels East Africa.
The family is also linked to Media Max Company, which owns K24 TV, Kameme Radio and The People Daily newspaper.
It also owns thousands of acres of prime land across Kenya that was acquired by the late President Kenyatta in the ‘60s and ‘70s under a settlement transfer fund scheme that allowed government officials to acquire land from the British.
Uhuru Kenyatta’s assumption of the presidency has injected fresh energy into his family’s commercial empire with expansion plans, buyouts and mergers taking centre stage.